Reluctantly I am unable to control my devouring of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s struggle. Book 5 continues the story (thank god there is only 1 remaining) with his acceptance into the Writer’s Academy, his ill-fated attempt to study Literature in Bergen, his role as a pseudo-drummer in his brother’s band, the year off he takes to care for mentally ill (mostly to earn money), his ambivalence about writing, his inability to write, and then finally his breakthrough, his first novel and critical acclaim. 600+ pages over the last two days, I admit that he has real skill in swirling his story among descriptions of gorgeous Scandinavian nature scenes and city life. Yet there are still parts that I can’t bear, his insistence on telling us how he prematurely ejaculates, how he smuggles an art book down to the bathroom to masturbate, his roving eye and subsequent dismissal of women except as objects to be described. He continues to be a flawed character who reveals all, the dirty details of all his friendships and relationships. I would not want to spend a single minute in his company, and yet I appreciate the writing, appreciate the spotlight he shines on the struggle of writing.
What was this feeling? I didn’t now. It was beyond investigation, beyond explanation or justification, there was no rationality in it at all, yet it was self=evident, all-eclipsing: anyting other than writing was meaningless for me. Nothing else would be enough, would quench my thirst.
But thirst for what?
How could it be so strong? Writing a few words on paper? And, yes, that wasn’t a dissertation, research, a report, or that sort of thing, but literary?
It was madness, for this was precisely what I couldn’t do. I was good at academic assignments, and I was good at articles, reviews, and interviews. But as soon as I sat down to write literature, which was the only way I wanted to spend my life, the sole occupation I perceived as meaningful enough, then I fell short.
I wrote letters, they just flowed, sentence after sentence, page after page. Often they consisted of stories about my life, what I’d experienced and what I’d thought. Had I only been able to transfer that feeling, that state of mind, that flow into literary prose, everything would have been fine. But I couldn’t I sat at my desk, wrote a line, then stop. I wrote another line, stop.
I feel your pain, Knausgaard. Later, when he’s in the flow, he mentions the importance of routine to conserve all available energy for writing.